Editorial : 15-year roadmap set by the fifth plenum

【明報專訊】The fifth plenary session of the Chinese Communist Party's 19th Central Committee wrapped up yesterday (October 29) in Beijing. The session has adopted the "CCP Central Committee's Proposals for the Formulation of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for National Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035". The full text of the proposals has yet to be issued but more details are expected at the press conference today (October 30) in Beijing. However, judging merely from the plenum communiqué released, one can see that the CCP has adopted a rather cautious view of the current situations of the country and the world. Therefore, the goals set for national economic and social development in the coming five years have carried a low-key and pragmatic tone while an unprecedentedly high level of importance has been placed on security development. In relation to national defence building, the document has proposed for the first time a target for the century-long endeavour of army building. An emphasis has even been put on the slogan of "military drills and war preparedness". As for the objectives for development in the coming 15 years, the vision remains ambitious and grand.

Every five years, China formulates a "Five-Year Plan for national economic and social development" and the one to be done next year will be the 14th of this kind. But the proposals passed by the fifth plenum this time also include a long-term plan of 15 years, covering the period from 2021 to 2035.

In the over-6,000-word communiqué, not a single word is dedicated to the Sino-US relationship. But reading between the lines, one can feel a sense of anxiety and preparedness for any eventualities arising from changes in the external environment caused by rivalry between the two countries. For example, the communiqué says China is still in an important period of strategic opportunity for development at present and for the foreseeable future, "but there are new developments in both opportunities and challenges". It says a "deep adjustment of comparative international powers" is happening now in the world, and "At the same time, the international environment has become increasingly complicated amid significantly higher instabilities and uncertainties."

On the basis of such judgement on the situation, the major goals set in the 14th Five-Year Plan as mentioned by the communiqué do not include any specific GDP targets. That is because in the face of high uncertainties of the pandemic-battered global economy, the uncertainty about the future economic growth of China has also significantly increased.

Quite unusually, the plenum communiqué discusses security and national defence at great length, stressing that "security development should be linked to all areas as well as the entire process of national development so as to guard against and iron out all kinds of risks that may affect the progress of our nation's modernisation". In relation to national defence and military modernisation, it has proposed "comprehensive enhancement of military drills and war preparedness, strengthening the strategic capabilities of defending national sovereignty, security and development interests, as well as ensuring the fulfilment of the target of the century-long endeavour of army building by 2027". It is the first time that a target of endeavour has been proposed to mark the 100th anniversary (2027) of the PLA's founding. Although the specific details concerned still have to be clarified, one may catch a glimpse of it from the goal of "making major strides in the modernisation of national defence and armed forces" as laid out in the 14th Five-Year Plan.

There is only one sentence about Taiwan in the communiqué — "advancing the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations and national reunification". However, the term "national reunification" was absent from the 13th Five-Year Plan five years ago, a sign that Beijing sees the situation of the Taiwan Strait grimly and there is an adjustment of focus in its policy towards Taiwan. As for Hong Kong and Macao, there is also only one related sentence — "maintaining lasting prosperity and stability in Hong Kong and Macao". We will have to wait for the release of the full text of the proposals for the concrete details.

明報社評2020.10.30:五中定調未來15年 兼顧發展安全風險









communiqué : an official statement or report, especially to newspapers

eventuality : sth that may possibly happen, especially sth unpleasant

rivalry : a state in which two people, companies, etc. are competing for the same thing

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